Tripping Over Milestones…

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Milestones. Coming back from mental illness has its milestones. I have met many of these along the way and have touched them as I have gone past. Most say that I’m pointing in the right direction. They pat me on the back as reassurance that I am on the right road and, indeed, I am on that right road.

I am becoming more and more normal everyday, in many ways.

And…I am scared.

 

I liked being ‘unnormal’. Although it was a desperate situation for a time, it freed me from false gods.

I stopped praying at their temples and took to wandering through the days on a quest to find the grails that I had left behind. I realised that I was not normal. My brain worked differently. My outlooks were different. My goals were not the same. And there I found myself, after a year-long odyssey, thinking that I had made it back, thinking that I had regained my sanity.

I was becoming normal once again.

One thing about having a breakdown is that you throw away the old. Not so much that you throw it away, rather that the old has been thrown for you. You wake up one morning and the world has turned without you onboard. You are floating somewhere in a drug-filled space; keeping quiet, watching, writing.

The writing keeps a record, the watching keeps one’s distance, the quiet gives you time to think. The thinking feeds one’s belief that the world is not a sane place and that everyone in it is normal; and the norm is madness.    

The problem with welcoming back normality is similar to the problem of welcoming displaced people into the security of western democracies. I am a liberal do-gooder and would welcome all and sundry, but I am now aware that amongst the sundries are unwanted agents. These agents have returned, not to ask for forgiveness but to help to create mayhem and chaos. My problem is that I am aware that some of the norms that are creeping back over the borders are non-friendlies. I want to keep myself safe and I can’t have radical agents sabotaging the infrastructure that I have built; or terrifying the crap out of those areas that I have only recently regained.

The other thing is that I cannot, simply cannot, give into the fear of ‘what might’, censor thoughts for the potentially harmful. Or build a bloody Great Wall.

It is the norm that is doing this to me. It is the acceptable face of everyday madness that almost all of us are being coaxed into accepting in exchange for normal life expectations. Most of us stop every now and again and see the madness for what it is. It’s a fairground wheel that everyone is queuing up to climb aboard. It takes its passengers above the ground level of life and shows them what they may be missing. It’s a huge panorama of the possible and it costs an arm and a leg, and a soul, to pay for the ride.

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So, we go on the ride. We hold hands with the one that we love and we marvel at the world that suddenly becomes smaller and less threatening. We are above it, like gods, and we can see it for what it is, a canvas of earth that is there for our conquest. 

Then there is a crunching noise. Metal on metal, in a squeal of dismay. The circle that we were travelling on screams to a stop. The Wheel of Fortune halts in its sky-stride and rattles its deception. The cold wind arises and worries the hands that are holding now more tightly. The earth is still below, but it is no longer smaller. It leers up at you and reasserts its dominance.

After an eternity, the ride begins again. This is the downward part of the cycle and it is welcome. Soon the ground will be there to greet you and you feel comforted. It will sit as sure as gravity and make a dull promise that this is it, no more fear, no more false fancies, no more madness.

“I will shackle your dreams to the earth and they will never tempt you again just as long as you follow me.”

And, for a while the reassurance of this promise is wonderful. No more dreams. No more seeing the world from different perspectives. No more rides towards heaven. The Wheel of Fortune has turned full circle and has brought you back to where you were, at the beginning of all that, before it happened.

No more will you venture out into places that belong to others. You will keep close to the ground and closer to the coastline. You will keep even closer to the little world that existed before the dawn of understanding. You will live a life more ordinary and die a normal death, having pledged yourself to the God of Norm.

Life will begin at the sound of the alarm clock. It will continue on its journey through a brief breakfast, the pinching of time over tea, and the goodbyes and the ‘have a good day’ until the blankness of the business day is bankrupt and the home waits for a few hours of respite.

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FIN DU TRAVAIL (THE END OF THE WORKING DAY)

JULES BRETON

Then, the next day, in all its lack of hope, will suffuse into the world and pretend it is new.  

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Selling Like Hot-Cakes?

DIGITAL_BOOK_THUMBNAIL Read After Burnout.

It makes no sense. 

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So Far, So Good…Please Check It Out.

This is just me pestering y’all for a little peak into my book.

You can get a sample for free. 

If you enjoy it I would really appreciate that you share or write a review.

Photo on 19-06-2018 at 15.58

 

 

on 18 June 2018
I came across this author via the blogging world and I was so impressed with his writing that I decided to buy his book and I’m really happy that I did! It is the story of a teacher, his family and his struggles with anxiety and depression but don’t let that put you off – parts of it are laugh out loud funny. He has a wonderfully self-deprecating way of writing that is amusing and endearing but, at the same time, you can feel the pain behind his words. The story is told as though he were recounting it to you over a couple of beers which means that it is easy to read but also that it is deeply personal.Mike is brutally honest in the telling of his tale and I found that it resonated with me on many, many levels because he says things that many of us just think. So there you have it, if you want to read about the ups and downs in the life of a teacher with a slight Jesus complex (his words) please pick up this book, it’s a really great read!

 

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on 18 June 2018
Captivating and enthralling, desperate and endearing, humorous and funny!

Turn Of The Wheel

It’s been almost a year since I finished my first journey of recovery and discovery. I thought that it had all gone amazingly well and that my life was set for a new and adventurous course that would be fuelled by writing.

I’m still puttng in the fuel , but my life is still in the same place.

Not for me, the meteroric rise to fame. Not for me, that epiphany of discovery. Not for me, that moment in the sun where, for a brief time at least, people begin to sit up and listen. The wheel may have turned, but the tide has not.

“Oh, woe is me.”

Count Your Blessings.

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Part of me was going to write something like, this is a lovely idea.

BUT.

There is always a BUT with me. It’s as if I have a corn or cheese detector governing my responses to totally ordinary sentiments. The rest of the world lives by these sentiments, so why do I so frequently reject them?

“It’s not the number of breaths we take, but the number of moments that take our breath away.”

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

“You have to look through the rain to see the rainbow.”

“Sing like no one is listening. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like nobody is watching.
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery and today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.”
I think that it becomes obvious after reading this short list that the speaker, or the
listener, would struggle not to be physically sick upon uttering or hearing these fired
across the gaping space between motivation and inspiration.
A year has come and gone. I don’t think that I have moved on. Just now, I got a call from a
supply agency offering me a day’s work at a truly horrible school. After a little
consideration, I said, no.
And that made all the difference.
“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”
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But how will I get home from there?

Storm Clouds

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The last lesson of the day arrives with an uncertain outlook. The crew of Prometheus always know that there are three critical moments for the outcome of a lesson:

  1. At the start of the lesson.
  2. At the end of the lesson.
  3. During the lesson.

Friday’s flotsam was beginning to wash up outside of the classroom. They have a well-worked routine when it comes to supply teachers. A scout is sent ahead to investigate the conditions whilst the rest of the group join in with the general melee that is collecting on the corridor.  I think they have a crude grading system for what a supply may look like. The system probably goes from clueless to anxious to cantankerous (those being the ones who try to establish some order). Having been in the school for almost six months, a few of the students recognised me. During that time, I had developed an outer layer that was reinforced with the non-taking of bullshit. The kids entered the classroom really quite well.

As with Year 7, Year 9, Year 10, and Year 11, Year 8 can be a funny year.

‘The storm blew up from the depths of hell and filled the world without warning. the clouds rolled in thick and black, and an angry stain spread across the sky like spilled oil.’

It was to be a creative writing task.

“The storm clouds had not covered the distance between entering the room and being seated at their desks. I hand books to a couple of quiet students and asked them make sure that everyone had one. Apart from several silly squalls were setting a different tack until I adopted my favourite teacher voice, the one that gets attention. Captain Evans was  in charge and his ship ran without mutinies. 

They had survived storms like this before, Captain Evans reassured himself. There was nothing that he had not seen, but deep within him a lone voice disagreed, somewhat. Deep in the rawness of his soul, Captain Evans was understanding what lay before his eyes. he braced himself for the arrival of the giant wave, a wall of merciless indifference that could rip bow and stern asunder. 

The moment had passed when they could ave outrun the coming leviathan, so the only thing left was to face the thing head on.

He gave the orders to lower the sails. His crew worked quickly, their nerves brittle under the strain. Knots were tied and then re-tied as only moments remained before the precipice would be above them. the howling wind slowed and, trapped in the palm of the beast, they waited. Each began to say their prayers, even the ones without a god to speak to, and then…”    

The bell went.

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Saved!

Little Factorising Equations…

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Men in their late fifties often make bad decisions.

Paul Theroux 

So, with the world of decision-making behind me, I stood in front a group of young learners. I walked into the classroom and was met with the same kind of noise I would have expected a Christian to hear as he was thrown into the circus of Rome.

I shrugged as a way to show my indifference and let the head of the maths department issue directions and empty threats.

“If you need anything, I’m in the next classroom.”

I thought of lion repellant, but said nothing.

Once he had left the room, I handed out the worksheets. Maths exists on a mountain of the things. On the computer screen was a video of some faceless hand leading a faceless class through the method required to complete factorising quadratic equations. I played it to a chorus of moans and groans. All these little factorisers wanted to do was to chat with their friends. All the little factorisers ever want to do was to chat to their friends. I gained some quiet before telling myself that it was fairly futile. I wandered the room.

One pointy-face equation asked me if I had missed him. I told him that I had, but only because the steering on my car was faulty. The pointy-face equation had a knack of talking. I walked away and perused other more likeable tables. For some very obvious reason, my little factorisers had decided that they had won. I agreed, I just hoped that they enjoyed the victory.

The behaviour that I had fought so hard to quell within my English lessons was less pronounced here. Perhaps my decision not to address it was important. A good half of the group chose to chat throughout the period. It wasn’t bad – it was incessant, but for me, it was merely background noise; the noise of their lives.

I can see it now. I can see how very strange my expectations must have appeared. I had insisted on quiet. In today’s world, the only quiet that many experience is when they are asleep. I was the one out of step with their world. I was to be suspected and feared. I was the dinosaur from myth. I was legend.

I sat there, an old adversary finally meeting his Waterloo, and waited for the lesson to end. It had gone surprisingly well. I had taught very little, imposed no restrictions, but had survived to fight another day (or lion or lesson).

My next assignment was covering a Year 7 group for physical education, PE. 

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In this new world, I need not bother about making any decisions.

I quite liked it. 

 

 

Fate just Copies What Happens In Our Lives…

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It’s probably a characteristic of types like me (and you, if you are reading this) that we prevaricate, procrastinate and generally prevent ourselves from doing things in case we truly fail. And the significant one is right.

I am afraid of failure and my fear has been growing year upon year. My launching myself in different directions is not the work of an unfettered adventurer, but is more the hastily constructed escape plans of one who sees his short-fallings as publically damnable and a possible source of ridicule. Now that I am in a corner, one that cannot be sidestepped, I don’t know what to do. My options have run out. I do not even have the simple choice of fight or flight.

 

Hoisted by my own petard.

 

I am looking across my teacher’s desk at a book I read to some students yesterday. It was world book day and one of the more vigorous and self-servingly strident female teachers, had organised for the department a chance to dress up as fictional characters to capture the imagination of those kids who wouldn’t read. I drew a big C on a piece of A4 and came as myself; The Old Man and the C. And, yes, I had to explain it. One guy thought that I had come as a character called ‘Cunt’ and I could see his point. Others dressed as you would expect, projections of themselves. There was: Titania (queen of the fucking fairies); an unusually orange Fagin which did cause me to have some confusion, my newly found buddy dressed as Arthur Dent whom none of the kids had ever heard of; then there was Daisy from The Great Gatsby. The latter was the young woman who sought to rule the department. It did strike me that all of us secretly consider ourselves to be something other than what we really are. There were lots of kids dressed up as themselves and there were decorated classroom doors, but no visiting writers. That bit seemed to have escaped any notice.

 

Oh, I am looking at the book again, Skellig.

 

I read Skelliga long time ago and it struck me as a wonderful work of literature. It was the type of book I wanted to write. Simple yet complex, a children’s book yet one that could reward an adult reading. It must have left a deep impression on me because it not only seemed to shape some of my ideas towards my own book but also foreshadowed the purchase of our current and most important home. So, as I looked across my desk and saw this book, by the wonderful David Almond, things began to click.

 

Skellig is one of those premier children’s books that I think of as a threshold text. It is about a young boy who moves, with his family, to a new house in a different part of his town. The house that they move into is almost derelict and belonged to a hermit who died alone and unloved. The family includes the boy, his mother, father and little baby sister (who is very ill). In the ancient garage, a place that should have been demolished, lives an old man, barely alive and dubiously human.

 

It could be described as a coming into awareness novel, a book about angels, a work about hope or a modern fairy tale. It is all of these and something more. I decided that it was time that I read this to my class of Year 7s. The class is a nurture group with a mixture of literacy and emotional issues. One lad, my favourite, keeps making loud squawking sounds and never fails to inform me and the rest of his group about how bored he can sometimes get during my lesson. I thought I would risk it, having heard a respected, and big selling, kids’ writer say that reading to children and young adults is just as enriching as them having to read. I read Skellig and my class listened with intent.

 

It’s odd that an activity such as this so rarely goes on these days.

 

It’s wrong that teachers have been dissuaded from fostering the love of the written word with their passion for the spoken word. Books, books, books; I love them. I love reading them. I love falling into the pages of somebody else’s world and forgetting about my own. I love the feel of books and I love the smell of them. I love to be around them and to open old ones to allow a name of the original keeper to reveal itself or a note to fall out. I have an ancient collection of the complete works of Shakespeare which is nice in itself. However, what makes it special is the fact that the binding has been made out of some older tome. I have only revealed a little of it for fear of overly damaging either of the texts, but my glimpse at the hidden text revealed a sort of ledger written in a fine hand; just one of the treasures of books.

 

Anyway, I began reading Skellig to my Year 7s and I heartened by their response. Like my complete works of Shakey, Skellig has lots of hidden extras that reward the reading and the re-reading. On a wet afternoon on the far-flung coast of East Yorkshire, it is a pearl of a read. Reading for enjoyment. Reading because it is there. Yet there was something else that I came across as I was reading that book; a retrospective déjà-vu.  I hadn’t realised just how much of our lives had been written in the books belonging to others.

 

Like the young boy’s family, we too moved into a house that had grown ancient around its hermit-like owner. He may not have died there, but we are pretty sure that something else has. And it was there that I finished my first book in which another family had moved into a run-down property only for the world to turn against them. Reading and writing and huge coincidences or just plain copying, take your pick.

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I can see my dead father’s head shaking in disbelief; he was never taken by flights of fancy.